Monday, May 19, 2008

Liberdeez Nutz

In the course of arguing in favor of early schooling, Kathy G. quotes someone from Cato writing in The New Republic:
[M]e and my fellow libertarians...insist on the central importance of individual responsibility for the healthy functioning of a free society. Yet, by the time people become legally responsible adults, circumstances not of their own choosing—namely, how they were raised and whom they grew up with—may have prevented them from ever developing the capacities they need to thrive and flourish. Which raises the possibility that government intervention to improve those circumstances could actually expand the scope of individual autonomy.
That strikes me as a pretty major concession coming from a right-libertarian. My impression is that the coherence of a lot of Cato's positions (e.g., against the estate tax) rests on a rather narrow interpretation of "liberty" where the only potential actor against liberty is the state, via the twin vectors of capital gains taxes and minimum sentences for marijuana possession. Once you've admitted that "individual autonomy" can be impeded by one's childhood environment, doesn't that open the door to the possibility that polluted drinking water, a racist police force, or an exploitative employer or landlord could have a similarly negative effect?

Seriously, I fully expect this Brink Lindsey to be run out of town on a rail for suggesting that the government might be justified in educating children, a clear violation of parents' property rights.

1 comment:

DU said...

I thought that was going to go a different direction. Like, I can only be maximally free to, say, buy awesome electronics and flying cars, if everyone else has PhDs from MIT and invents them.

This same argument applies to everyone in the society. Therefore total maximal freedom obtains when we all have free kindergarten and college.